NYC phone numbers – Inside scoop

So I thought it would be a neat idea to write a little about popular area codes -their history, availability, technical aspects, and perhaps the occasional pop culture reference. 

Birds eye view of Central park NYC looking South
Central park in NYC with a birds eye view

Given that we started in NYC, it only makes sense to start with the big apple. I’ve been outside the city for a while now so apologies if this ends up sounding like a teenage love story.

I (the founder) was raised in Queens and worked in the family supermarket business for most of my childhood. Trade fair supermarket in Astoria, Queens – a mom and pop type supermarket where everyone knew everyone. The employees were mostly hispanic while customers ranged from Greek to Cuban to Italian among many others. 

Wikipedia says “Queens is the most linguistically diverse place on Earth “, so it makes sense that FlyNumber would sort of fall on my lap. 

OK, so now that’s out of that way…

We’ll start with the coveted 212, a prefix synonymous with Manhattan and prior to VoIP, restricted to landline phones in all 5 boroughs (mobile didn’t exist in the 40’s). 

The 212 prefix was originally assigned to all 5 NYC boroughs in 1947, managed by then monopoly, At&t. It wasn’t til 1984 that there was a split, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island would get the 718 , while Manhattan and the Bronx would keep the 212. By 1992 the Bronx had also adopted the 718 while the 212 became exclusive to the island of Manhattan. 

Manhattan being assigned the smaller “212” digits was no coincidence either. Back in the day of rotary phones, connecting to a 212 phone number was the quickest area code/phone number that you could dial. The lower digits also made it easier for old school human telephone operators to connect lines and switches with each other. 

Basically, the higher the number, the longer it took to dial or keypress. And as you’d expect, it made sense to give the lowest numbers to the cities with the most people and businesses. It’s why Chicago and L.A. were assigned the next best 2 area codes – 312 and 213 respectively.

In 1992 as concern for phone number scarcity in NYC grew, the city introduced the 917 area code. It was assigned to to all 5 boroughs, 8 years later the 646 area code was added as well.

This goes without mentioning but it’s no longer guaranteed you’ll get a New Yorker when calling a 212 or 718 number, VoIP changed most of that in the late 90’s.  However, most of our 212, 718 and other NYC area code phone numbers are still owned by actual New Yorkers. Instead of getting a 212 or 718 from Comcast or Verizon locally – they’ll just use FlyNumber. 

Though the 212 number can be purchased by anyone in the world, it still feels like it belongs to the big apple. When I see a 212, I think  mammoth buildings with spires, the bustle of midtown, Wall Street and for whatever reason, exclusivity. 

It seems there’s a badge of honor that comes with owning a 212, especially for traditional professionals. (lawyers, stock brokers etc.)

NYC area code pricing.

The 212 and 718 are “specialty” numbers, or in other words, there is only a limited amount of these numbers on the open market, so they cost more money. 

212 – $29.95 per month + 1 time $149 fee

718 – $24.95 per month + 1 time $149 fee

The rest of our NYC numbers fall in the category of regular US numbers. $2.95 per month and no setup or one-time fees.

So NYC 347 , 646 , 917, and 516 (this is more Nassau county) are all $2.95 per month with no other fee’s

Side note: All U.S. numbers have free incoming SMS to email, including all the NYC prefixes. More information on our local US phone numbers here.

image credit goes to Jermaine Ee

By Nader Jaber

Helping people communicate while trying to improve as a communicator myself.

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